- Budapest, Hungary
are dedicating this to Balazs and Zsusanna,
wonderful new friends and hosts in Hungary.
a country, what a city
is unique in all of Central Europe (more
these days than saying Eastern Europe)
of all, they are not Slavic, like their
instead they descend from the Magyars,
the most obvious reminder of this is their
They speak a language unlike any other in
world, bearing only a passing resemblence to
Communism was ushered out via economic
in 1988, and the doors were thrown wide
Hungary was the first country on our trip
we really began to know. Their
and unfortunately has not been too kind
the last hundred years. Hungary
in the nineteeth
was part of the vast Austrian Hungarian
that all collapsed in WWI (bring out the history
here) and Hungary was carved up like a steak.
lost two-thirds of their land, as well as
ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries.
in WWII, they found themselves on the wrong side,
when they tried to revolt against Germany, their
population was slaughtered. After WWII, they
were served on a platter to the Soviets and the wonderful economic
of communism was installed.
Life has been
here and it continues to be hard with a growing
between the haves and the have nots. While the
here are adapting well to the new capitalist
many older people have no idea how to deal
it. Used to having a life long
they have now discovered insecurity, stress and
depression like never before. But
this country is changing, it will take a generation
so and that is what we mostly felt. A country of
the future, and the new millenium.
our disasterous arrival in Hungary, we arranged
up with a couple there. Before
we left, we joined
program called Servas, whose mission is to foster
and cultural exchange between the people of the
Once you apply and are accepted, you gain
to a vast network of hosts in every country
invite you into their home for a few nights to
about them and to gain insight in the culture.
This would be our first experience.
it was better than we could have expected.
and Zsusanna are our
He is an economist for IBM, while she is in
at a big telecom company. We stayed at their place
Budapest, just a bit outside the downtown, and it
just like home. They fed us
til we burst,
of "typical hungarian dishes" like homemade
and dumplings and bean soup and casseroles and
most amazing dessert, baked, breaded cottage
covered with sour cream and powdered
sugar. mmmm So
good, but maybe I'm not describing it in the best way. Cottage
cheese is big here.
kept trying to feed it to us. And
its not like
the US. Its closer to the cream
cheese that we know.
loves these little ice creams that are mini
cheese balls dipped in dark chocolate.
had cottage cheese flavored ice cream.
were only going to stay two nights, but they
we could stay the entire time we were in
so we loafed around at their place for
a week. What horrible
guests we are
welcome, but we were having such a nice time we didn't want to leave.
There is something special about staying in a real lived-in home rather
than a hotel.
separates Buda on the right and Pest on the left
saw much of the city which has a spectacular layout.
is split in half by the mighty Danube, with Buda on
side and Pest on the other. Buda has the castle
on the hill overlooking Pest.
While Pest fronts national monuments like the Parliment Building along
the Danube. And
the city is
Two million people in 24 districts.
spent an afternoon at a turkish bath. Hungary is
for its hot thermal springs, and while the
occupied Hungary in the fifteeth century, they
turkish baths everywhere. So when in Hungary ...
baths are very elaborate tributes to the art of steaming. All
marble and columns
stone beasts with water pouring from their mouths.
pools come in pairs. One
being cold and the
hot, with the idea that you alternate between the two pools to get the blood
They are outside as well as inside and in
old men in woolen hats sit outside and play
on waterproof cork boards and pieces with only
heads above the water. Most
baths have men and
only days but we visited a bath that was co-ed.
we had begun to shrivel up like a raisin, we
a door marked thermal bath. (I thought we were
in one?) So we
I rang a bell
it was answered by a women in a lab coat.
Shower! Thermal bath that way!" Yes ma'am!
entered into a domed pool that was again divided
half and crawling with naked women of all ages,
especially large elderly women with especially buoyant
breasts, that resembled misshaped floatation devices. This time the pools went
hot to hotter than hell. And I spent my time
under a fountain, naked. I
massage so I waited my turn, and then went into the
I laid on a wet foam pad and instead of the
massage that we are used to at home, I received
good old fashioned scrubbing. The lady, using a bar
soap and hot water, scrubbed me pink with her pruny
that felt more like a puckered sponge. ok, that was different.
went and told Doug that he had to try the men's
baths and this is what he thought.
had a very similar experience, except the men were
bit more modest. Only about
half the men were naked
the ones that were, were either body builders or
old men. I decided not to
get a massage, leaving
pleasures for Ann. From
what I could see, it
the massage for men consisted primarily of
rubbing of buttocks with no soap involved.
addition, there was a certain vibe with a
of the bathers who were clearly taking the
to check out the merchandise, especially
bodybuilders. It was a real
eye opener for me,
pun intended, I can't wait for the Turkish baths in
and Zsusanna took us to a movie, all part of
Same, but different. While
I was looking for the best ones, while Balazs
checking out the seat and row numbers. He stopped
pronounced that he had found our seats.
assign seats at the movies here. We
a Hungarian subtitled Lock,
Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. It
was great, although occasionally I envied our friends being able to read
the dialogue. Some of the accents were so thick as to render them
incomprehensible to my ears. As
a special installment of movie corner, we highly
it, it was a British Pulp Fiction. Also, prior to the
previews, they showed a
of cigarette and liquor commercials, which you
no longer do in the states.
night they took us to a 'hungarian pub' to
meet some friends. A night on the town with local yuppies. They were
some friends at a place called Harley Cafe,
in the motorcycles. It was decked in American
So much for authentic hungarian.
soundtrack consisted of disco, that horrid
spears song, TLC and interspered with
pop songs. We danced the
night away, anyway.
times we tried to visit the amazing Parliament
the equivalent of the Congress building.
is very closely guarded and difficult to secure
One morning after being told to show up at
certain time, we were greeted by the military band
honor guard. Seems they
forget to mention that
would be no tours that day because the President
Latvia was coming. But we
watched that for awhile.
was like a Notre Dame Half time show, with the band
both sides alma maters and then the
of flowers and the ROTC honor guard, with
flags and marching and stuff. After
two more trys
did manage to see the interior.
interesting detail. Just
outside the legislative
was a cigar holder that held over a hundred
Seems that when a speaker is interesting,
ashtray is full, but when he is boring, everyone
and has a smoke.
We want to thank our
generous host for their
hospitality. For showing us a different side of Budapest and
treating us like family. We hope that maybe they will travel
the states sp,eday soon. so that we may return the favor.
episode - The adventures with the fam
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